Durban, South Africa. 9th December – After two weeks of intense negotiations, frenetic deliberations and high-level ministerial posturing, talks on a package of decisions to reduce the harmful impact of climate change remain indecisive and without a clear outcome on key issues on the final day on Friday.
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, President of COP 17, the UN climate change conference insisted to journalists that the talks on various decisions to reduce the impact of climate change were far from being classified a failure.
“I think we have made a lot of progress,” she said during a Friday afternoon update following marathon sessions of talks with countries which began the previous day.
“It’s taking a bit long but its better….because parties will own whatever steps they take,” said Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa’s International Relations and Co-operation Minister.
Close to 200 countries are engaged in climate talks with the main focus on the Kyoto Protocol, which commits industrialised countries to cut down on their greenhouse gas emissions which scientists blame for rising sea levels, powerful storms and drought.
But not all countries are convinced that progress has been taking place.
The least developed countries (LDCs), the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the European Union (EU) expressed their displeasure at the pace of the talks for an ambitious outcome in Durban.
“We believe that the world has had a lot of time to think. What we need is not more thinking. What we need is more action,” they said in a joint statement.
“The chance to reach our objective is getting smaller as time passes and we need to start this process today.”
The LDCs, AOSIS and the EU say they are ready to operationalize the Green Fund which will channel US$100 billion a year in aid to developing nations and other institutions that were agreed at the climate talks in Cancun, Mexico a year ago.
They also called for firm and clear decisions on an amendment of the Kyoto Protocol for the second commitment period together with a robust mandate and roadmap for a legally binding instrument.
“Under this instrument, all parties to the UNFCCC need to commit, respecting the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities,” the groups said.
Poorer nations in particular have called for the Kyoto Protocol which commits industrial countries to limit carbon emissions to be extended, but rich nations are demanding a broader pact to include all the big polluters including India, China and Brazil. The United States has never ratified the treaty.
The Group of 77 (G 77) and China, also in an early morning statement felt that Durban can still be a key positive step even if decision seems elusive but agreements on the next steps on the principles of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol will not be set aside.
Silvia Merega, Chair of G77 and China said there have been several attempts to change the rules of the game in an unbalanced manner that many see as unfair.
“Any evolution of this multilateral system needs to be transparently agreed as a whole, patches and add-ons will only make our work more difficult. There are actually very few ways that really lead to the stabilization of the climate system, and as time passes those open windows narrow further down”, said Merega, Head of Delegation of Argentina.
The Group of 77 and China also called on rich countries to engage in discussion on financing, technology transfer and reduction targets.
They also felt that the operationalization of the Green Climate Fund is considered key to moving forward and that agreement is very close on workable governance mechanisms, with transparency and check and balances.
The halls of the conference centre were also packed with protestors demanding that nations not sign a “death sentence” in Durban. The march filled the hall outside of the main negotiating room as the afternoon round of talks were scheduled to begin.
Standing side-by-side with delegates from some of the world’s most vulnerable countries, civil society representatives sang traditional South African freedom songs and chanted slogans like, “Listen to the People, Not the Polluters.”
“We are all the people of Africa. We are all people of the islands,” said Kumi Naidoo, the Durban-born Executive Director of Greenpeace International.